The late great CS Lewis once said: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Regular readers to this blog will know that while my faith often crops up, I (hopefully) avoid being too “preachy”. You won’t typically see me reviewing worship albums or writing long essays on why the Bible is true.
I like to think I’m open about my faith all year round. I certainly am always happy to talk about it when people ask. But today I make an exception. You haven’t asked: But I’m going to talk anyway.
On Easter Sunday I do go a bit crazy. This morning I shared a load of Facebook statuses and re-tweeted a lot of tweets about the resurrection.
And I make no apologies for that. Because if you can’t talk about Jesus on resurrection Sunday, then when can you?!
The centre of Christianity is not a debate about homosexuality, women bishops or creation/evolution. But you’re very much forgiven for thinking it was. And it’s not your fault for assuming these issues are of primary importance. If you consume any kind of media, you’d assume that quite quickly.
The centre of our faith is a message about forgiveness. It’s a message of love and hope.
Sometimes I think atheists are rallying against a system, structure or God that Jesus (and most Christians) never believed in. We Christians are to blame for that. All of us have mis-represented Christ in one form or another.
If you want to know what Christianity stands for you only need to one thing. Read. Don’t read my blog. Don’t even read a book about God. Read the book God wrote about himself: The Bible. Read this…
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.
“God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God.
“Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” (John 3)
Christ arrives right on time… He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.
“We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” (Rom 5)
“Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!” (Ephesians 1)
Questions? Leave a comment or click here
Passion makes all the difference.
It was on the way back from last night’s historic event where Christian music finally got its own chart that one industry professional pointed this out to me: “The Edge could play an amazing guitar riff, but when Bono picks the guitar up, it doesn’t sound the same.” The comment was not a critique of Bono’s guitar skills but an observation about the way passion drives music.
Christian music is overflowing with passion because it’s not just the music that gets us excited, it’s the person we’re singing about.
Speaking at the launch, MD of the Official Charts Company Martin Talbot said that he has overseen dozens of charts “but I’ve never experienced the enthusiasm we’ve had from the Christian and Gospel labels”.
Later a representative from the same company told me she was staggered at the level of camaraderie and relationship within the Christian music world. Her comments reminded me of John 13:35 when Jesus said: “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another”.
When the Official Charts Company launches a new chart they do it properly. When industry experts “discovered” (that’s their word, not mine) the Christian music scene they were gobsmacked. People simply didn’t realise such a huge market existed.
- More people go to Church every week than people who went to the London Olympics.
- Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons was the 4th biggest download of sheet music – 2nd only to Adele in the UK.
- 300,000 people went to Christian concerts and festivals in the UK last year.
- Katy Perry’s songs were played 1.4 million times on the radio last year. Chris Tomlin’s songs were played 3.12 million times in churches.
Christian music has come a long way in recent decades. No longer is the genre synonymous with poor quality cringe-worthy songs. In any genre there’ll be bad apples, but for the most part Christian music is top quality, and it’s getting better all the time.
Critics of the new chart worry a Christian ghetto is being created. But nothing could be further from the truth. Thousands of people sing Christians songs in the UK. Yet this beautiful picture of unified worship across backgrounds, races and denominations that Christians take for granted at events like Spring Harvest and Soul Survivor is hidden from the general public’s view. Having a Christian chart which is recognised and backed by a mainstream music organisation proves that Christian music is not some kind of strange side show for religious people, but a serious collection of great sounding, positive songs.
The Christian music industry is arguably set apart from how the secular world has traditionally operated. If you talk to the top worship leaders and record label bosses you will soon notice a common character trait. Real, genuine humility. I’ve interviewed many people within the Christian music industry yet I can’t think of anyone who has come across as only being interested in promoting their music. When they say they want to serve churches by providing songs that help people to worship, they mean it.
There’s a deep level of friendship even between representatives of “rival” organisations in the Christian music world. You could even argue the industry is not an industry at all but a community.
This chart has been a long time coming. I’m told there’s been plenty of debate behind the scenes as to what constitutes ‘Christian’ music. The organisers of this chart are not oblivious to some of these tricky questions. Some of the finer details are yet to be worked out. But what’s important and what should be celebrated right now is that Christian music has moved out of the ghetto. It’s been recognised as a legitimate, well-produced and relevant genre of music. If your a Christian this should excite you, and if you’re not I hope it encourages you to look into this world of great music. You don’t have to believe to belong. Let the future begin…
American patriotism is something that can confuse us Europeans. So in order to find out more about the origins of the phenomenon I invited American freelance writer Jessica McMann to write this guest post. With holymansam readers coming from both sides of the Atlantic, I’m looking forward to a lively discussion in the comments below! Over to you, Jessica…
American patriotism is perhaps one of the world’s best known brands. Of course, every country the world over, to a greater or lesser extent, practices patriotism. But in America, patriotism takes on a uniquely consumerist and religious character that the entire world at once recognizes and also finds a bit baffling. In our globalized, ostensibly post-nationalist world, it would seem that patriotism has become some quaint anachronism. Yet it’s alive and well in America.
Of course, this isn’t to say that every American trumpets the American brand or proselytizes American exceptionalism. In fact, I’d say most of the people who I know are prouder and more forthcoming about their “ancestry” (i.e., “I’m half Irish, a quarter Scottish, part German,” etc.) even if said ancestry is so far generationally removed as to be basically meaningless.
Still, in certain parts of the country, particularly the American South, declaring proudly that one is an American, whether through actual speech, through flags, or with bumper stickers is very commonplace. These American patriots, often caricatured, tend toward religious conservatism. They’re the “Tea Party” you may have heard of, and they’re raison d’etre is to derive their identities as Americans through moral and/or religious outrage, coupled with nostalgia for a certain, not wholly accurate, version of the American past.
Having grown up in small-town Texas, I confronted this type of patriotism nearly every single day. In the days following the September 11 attacks, our neighborhood had an unspoken “who-can-buy-and-display-the-biggest-flag” competition. Pledging allegiance to the American flag occurred during nearly every school function or event that I can recall. Gun ownership, a rather peculiar aspect of American culture, was constantly invoked as a “freedom” that the “Founding Fathers” sought to guarantee, even though the real story is a lot more complicated than all that.
In order to really understand how American patriotism came about in the first place, it’s important to understand how and under what circumstances this country was founded. As Frederick Edwords points out in his essay “The Religious Character of American Patriotism,” America is an historical anomaly in that it had no unifying, monolithic cultural tradition upon being founded.
America began as a refuge for various religious, mostly Christian sects, and perhaps the one thing that united this rather diverse group was a shared hatred of England. Still, hatred of another country is not nearly enough to unite a nation. Without a common religion, Americans had to invent one. And so we have American patriotism, an essentially religious tradition, with its own mythology, the most basic story being the overcoming of adversity and class distinctions through hard work.
Seen through this light, American patriotism is difficult to merely dismiss as an outgrowth of ignorance and bigotry, as so many Europeans do. While younger, urban, educated Americans find overt expressions of patriotism to be embarrassing and in poor taste, it seems that, in one way or another, we nonetheless still cling to the idea that America is a place where anyone can “follow their dreams.” This is not to say, of course, that American patriotism can’t be dangerous, in the same way that all religious dogmatism can be dangerous.
As someone who derives her identity as a Christian, as a member of a local community, as a citizen of the world, and as an American, I see our country’s patriotism as the most limiting way to define oneself. No matter what your views on Christianity, one cannot deny that Christian principles, as taught by Christ, are universal and inherently inclusive. American patriotism, on the other hand, is by its very nature exclusionary. In its worst modes of expression, American patriotism becomes an excuse for bigotry, for domination of the weaker, and for alienation of the Other.
Keeping this in mind, it may seem strange that so many who are outwardly patriotic in America tend to be devout Christians. But when we remember that American patriotism and religion are historically so closely intertwined, it all makes sense. We Americans are not, as a whole, crazy, nor do most of us believe America is necessarily the greatest country on earth. Patriotism is just part of our culture, a part that—in all honesty—I’d much rather live without.
Jessica McMann is a freelance writer whose primary interests are religious studies, education, and personal/professional development. You can check out more of her writing at www.ChristianColleges.com, a site dedicated to Christian education resources. Jessica welcomes your comments below!
No Women Allowed?
Just weeks after the Church of England voted to keep bishops as a male-only position, it has emerged that Bristol Christian Union (CU) does not allow women speakers.
The mainstream media had a field day yesterday with the Huffington Post and The Guardian both eager to report the story.
It’s nearly three years to the day that the then president of Solent University CU invited me and my friend Catherine over to her house for a curry. I was barely two mouthfuls into my meal when the question came, “Would you and Catherine consider leading the CU next year?” To say I was shocked would be an understatement.
Speaking from Experience
We both agreed and the year that followed was both challenging and extremely rewarding. We had an amazing team and I have many fond memories. As you may have guessed from her name, Catherine is a woman. The previous president was a woman. Others on committee were women. And yes, we had women speakers.
Nobody complained. Nobody kicked up a fuss. Nobody left.
This is obviously how it should be!
But what would we have done had someone said they could not attend CU because women were allowed to speak and in their view the Bible forbade this?
If you’re not a Christian, your answer may be along the lines of “kick them out”. But if you are a Christian, you’ll understand that us believers in Jesus place an extremely high value on unity.
Unity, Unity, Unity
I don’t know what I would have done faced with the issue that those in Bristol have come up against. To be honest with you, I’m glad it never arose on my watch! Thankfully God knew I’d probably make a balls-up of such a conundrum so in his mercy never let me face it!
Here’s what we can say: UCCF who oversee CUs in the UK do an amazing job. They have never taken a position either way on this debate. And while many Christians feel this debate should have been settled a long time ago, it hasn’t. And UCCF have acted with maturity by being honest in admitting Christians take different views, but that ALL Christians of ALL backgrounds should be allowed to hold their views AND be a part of CU.
Christians disagree. This isn’t news to the secular world.
But what does appear to be news is that every Christian, whether Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical or Quaker believes in one God, one Messiah and the new life that can be found through Jesus.
This is where UCCF’s ministry and philosophy starts and finishes.
Please, Don’t go…!
Some Christians hold views I really don’t like. But they are my brothers and sisters. I don’t want to see them leave the church I attend or the CU I was involved in. So, like me, you can passionately disagree with Bristol’s decision, but you can also love them. Their primary motivation wasn’t the advancement of sexism. Far from it, their primary motivation was to keep everyone unified.
Keeping everyone happy is an impossible task. But keeping everyone unified is not not impossible. Unity is a primary goal for any CU leader.
The question is simple: Which do you value more? Your own theology, doctrine and secondary beliefs, or unity?
One of the biggest lessons I learned through leading a CU was not only the importance of unity, but how much can be accomplished when Christians come together, lay aside theological differences and get on with the mission Jesus gave us.
After all, Jesus words in Matthew 28 (The Great Commision) make no mention of eschatology, communion or the place of women. His words are directed at people who probably disagreed on all of those things! Yet we’re expected to put these differences and debates to one side while we get on with something much more important…Making disciples.
If there’s a large percentage of people in your CU who won’t get on with the Great Commission unless teaching is only done by men, then again ask the question (as I’m sure the leaders did): What’s more important, The Gospel of Jesus Christ or women speakers?
Like most people, I hope Bristol CU realise that these two things are not separate but intertwined! They shouldn’t have to choose between them but accept both.
So I obviously don’t condone Bristol CU’s action, but I do understand that if you’re bring forced to choose between women speakers and Jesus’s mission then Jesus’s mission always wins. And that’s something that (rightly) angry and frustrated Christian women will understand.
EDIT: Seconds after posting this I read Bristol’s newly released statement which says, “we will extend speaker invitations to both women and men, to all BUCU events, without exception.”. This is great news!
If you’re downloading music or films without paying for them, you’re probably breaking the law.
People don’t care they are breaking the law. But if they worked in the music industry and witnessed redundancies all around them because of illegal downloading, they probably would!
Today I stumbled across a recent live Christian worship album uploaded in its entirety to YouTube. This was not done by the producer, record label or artist. It was done by someone who didn’t own the copyright. I politely pointed this out to him, and he kindly promised to remove it. His excuse? He didn’t know it was illegal.
You may think I’m being picky and being a kill joy. Many of you seemed to have this impression when I relayed some of the above on Twitter. I was shocked at the number of Christians defending this person’s actions!
So let’s deconstruct some of the arguments for illegally streaming or downloading music and see if they stand up…
I believe we as Christians should be leading the way in acting within the law and acting morally and in accordance with our own scriptures (Rom13:1-2)
1) It’s not stealing because it’s not physical!
According to this argument, when it comes to downloading, there isn’t a physical object to take so it can’t be called stealing.
I don’t know of many people who would steal a CD for the artwork! They steal it for the information (songs) on it. When people download – they are taking that same information. So the same product is being taken. It may not be being taken in the same manner, but the outcome is the same.
2) The artists earn too much money anyway. They won’t notice a few quid lost because I didn’t buy their CD.
Christians, let’s get a few facts straight: Probably the best selling Christian CD of the last 18 months was Spirit Break Out. It reached number 9 in the iTunes chart, and according to the people involved, it hasn’t even broken even yet! Worship leaders are clearly not rolling in it. You have to sell millions, not thousands to make a big profit.
But that point is actually an aside.
By the above logic, I could steal Rihanna’s car because she’s already rich and can afford another one.
But I don’t refrain from stealing music or cars because it will or won’t damage people. I refrain from stealing because it’s morally wrong.
3) I just illegally stream or download so I can decide if I like it. If I like it then I’ll buy it.
This is a really common argument. The ’try before you buy’ attitude sounds great to begin with, but what is it based on?
It’s based on the idea that stealing is only stealing if you hang on to something for a certain period of time.
So you could argue the first 45 minutes of listening to an album is not stealing, it’s just sampling/trying. The argument implies that if I continued to enjoy the product and held onto it for X hours or days then it would be considered stealing and wrong. But where’s the limit?
The limit is hour 0. In other words, unless you’ve already paid the money, it’s wrong and it’s stealing.
4) All music should be free, anyway!
These people want there to be a world where everyone benefits from the joys of music, but no one has to pay for it.
Can you imagine walking up to someone who already struggles to sell tickets to their gigs or get money from album sales and telling them to “just do it all for free!”? These people have mortgages to pay and children to feed.
To those illegally downloading music saying “it should be free”, can I just point out there’s already a legal and free way of listening to music? Spotify.
You have NO excuse to illegally stream music on YouTube now that Spotify is here. Thanks to Spotify – the person who wants music to be free, gets what they want. But they get it without damaging the artist.
It is shocking to me that we need to have a discussion on what constitutes stealing and what doesn’t. But all the statistics suggest that’s exactly what needs to happen. (Seeing as Ed Sheeran’s album is the most illegally downloaded, perhaps we also need to have a discussion on what constitutes good music? But we’ll save that for another time)
While I believe it’s wrong to steal regardless of your religious beliefs, I’m primarily aiming this post at my fellow Christians. Check Rom13:1-2 again. Too many are setting a bad example, damaging the very industry (Christian music/film) they claim to love and deliberately ignoring God’s commandments.
Sorry for the preach, but this isn’t an issue that’s going to go away. I welcome your comments and am more than happy to debate this if need be…
Sarah Catt illegally aborted her own baby at 39 weeks (15 weeks after the legal cut off point). Convicted of taking a “deliberate and calculated decision” to abort her child, Catt has been jailed for 8 years.
After her affair, Catt purchased drugs from India over the internet and took them in the final phase of her pregnancy.
The abortion debate is usually heated and brings out the worst in people. The pro life camp often make women who have had abortions feel like dirt. Sometimes they treat them like dirt too. The pro choice crowd can also be intolerant of the other side’s beliefs. I remember being told by a pro choice advocate that I wasn’t allowed an opinion on abortion. The reason? I’m a man.
As a Christian, I’m most likely to be pigeon-holed as pro life. If you’re reading this from America you might even imagine me standing outside an abortion clinic waving banners and shouting at and looking down on women entering the premises. For the record: I’ve never done that and never will.
Whatever I write here about abortion will upset someone somewhere. That’s the risk you take with bearing your deepest thoughts, feelings and opinions on a public blog. But if we’re going to disagree – and no doubt we will – I’m determined that disagreement will happen with mutual love and respect being shown on all sides.
The fundamental question for me is, ‘When does life begin?’ This country has rightly prosecuted a woman for killing a baby inside the womb. But if she did this a matter of weeks earlier, it wouldn’t have just been legal, it would have been supported by the medical profession.
The cut off point for an abortion in the UK is currently 24 weeks.
At 24 weeks a baby is about 3o centimetres long with fully developed lungs. If the baby was born at this point, he or she would have a good chance of surviving. Yet according to UK law, it’s OK to abort the baby at this point.
Hopefully even the most ardent pro choice person can see the logical inconsistency here. I’m not saying that those who have abortions should be locked up like Catt. But I am arguing that the law needs to be looked at again.
OK, I admit it. I’m not just gunning for a reduction in the abortion limit date. I don’t just want to see the cut off point dropped a few weeks (although that would be a step in the right direction).
I’d actually like to live in a perfect world where no women are ever raped, no women are forced to choose between their life and the life of their child. And yes I’d like to live in a world where no women use abortion as birth control.
But I’m a realist.
So for now can we have a friendly good natured discussion on when life starts? OK ok, that’s too difficult a question. Let’s make it simple: Can anyone see where I’m coming from with the current legislation being inconsistent? A baby can survive being born at 39 weeks so if someone aborts it, we jail them. A baby can also survive being born at 24 weeks. But if someone aborts that baby, the medical profession goes out of its way to assist the mother.
Comments are open. Please be nice.
NOTE: If in the likely event I’ve mis-represented or dramatically misunderstood the complexities of either sides, I promise to amend and edit the above post. Thank you for your understanding. I’m not expert on this, but I do want to learn.
Once in a while it’s fun to write a blog post on blogging itself. So here goes…
I’ve tried (and failed) previously to explain the reasoning behind why I blog. I’m still not totally sure why I bother at times. I’m also aware holymansam.wordpress.com can lack a bit of direction. But you, the reader have kept on reading (or so the stats tell me) and for that, I’m grateful.
One of the most important things about blogging is, to quote The Guardian “comment is free”. Without readers joining in with the discussion, blogging loses its soul. Books, journals and newspapers don’t enjoy this same level of interactivity. Letters to the editor only let a tiny percentage of readers comment. Blogs let everyone have a say (even the spambots). The internet has given us all a voice. This is something that should be celebrated.
This may be controversial, but in my view, unless you have the comment facility enabled, your blog is not a blog.
It’s not so much that your missing out on insight from friends and those who know more about the subject than you, (although that’s all true) but rather the fact that you send a very negative message to your readers.
By disabling the comment function, you are refusing to let people engage with your writing. You may not be doing this in an arrogant fashion, it just looks that way to your reader. Like it or not, the majority of blogs invite comments. So if your blog doesn’t have this feature, you stick out for all the wrong reasons.
The best lecturers give time for questions. But blogs that don’t let the reader comment are worse than a lecturer that ignores his students questions. Unless you turn the comments on, you’re having a one way conversation with your readers.
One way conversations are no fun. Remember that guy or girl who just talks at you rather than to you? You can’t get a word in edge-ways. We’ve all been on the receiving end of those ‘chats’. A few of us have given them too (sorry).
Journalists are encouraged to have at least one specialist subject. Something they know a lot about. Most (though not all) of my specialist subjects fall under the heading of ‘Christianity’. Theology is one of these subjects. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert, it’s just an interest/hobby. Now, in doing something as absurd and as difficult as trying to describe what God is like, you’re going to make some mistakes whatever level you’re at. But what I love about theology is the amount of material I’ve learned and gleaned from others through podcasts, books, and yes…blogs. These mediums have both corrected me and further enforced what I already believe.
Unsurprisingly, there are hundreds of blogs on theology and loads of them are absolutely brilliant. The writers write well and the readers respond reflectively.
But I’ve noticed a concerning trend among bloggers who fit into the ‘reformed’ category. That’s right, they’ve turned the comments section off! I realise that especially with bigger blogs, there may be issues surrounding censorship. It’s right that offensive comments are deleted. I’ve done that before. But it’s not too difficult or time-consuming to do this. You don’t solve the problems 1% of your readers (known as trolls) cause by censoring everyone! You just censor the trolls. Simple.
For me, you lose credibility if you aren’t willing to let the audience engage. If you have comments turned on (well done, you) and want extra brownie points, then do what Vicky Beeching models so well and respond to your readers comments. That’s going the extra mile. But the bare minimum should be letting your readers having a say – it’s what blogging is all about!